Dolomites for one day

Feb 21st, 2011, 12:17 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 6,025
Dolomites for one day

Hello! My husband and I are traveling with another couple to Germany in late April, basing ourselves in Mittenwald. I really wanted to stay in the Dolomites, as I've already been to Bavaria several times, but I was out voted so I'm hoping to do a daytrip instead. I know we can't see much in a day, but I would love some suggestions on how to make the most of our time assuming we leave earlier in the morning and return later in the evening. I'm hoping to maybe get to the Val Gardena area. Viamichelin shows 152 km which certainly seems doable. Is this a good idea? Any other ideas or suggestions on particularly beautiful routes?

tcreath is offline  
Feb 21st, 2011, 12:27 PM
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Might I suggest a tour round the Sella Gruppe? Below I have posted an excerpt from our own tour of the Alps in August 2007, showing you what is possible to fit into a day. Not including our morning and lunch spent in Ortisei, we did the loop drive (round-trip from Ortisei), cable car ride, and short hike in about 5 hours. The scenery is simply spectacular, and even though we had iffy weather, we enjoyed it immensely.

We woke up to a steady drizzle and a valley obscured by clouds, which put a bit of a damper (pun intended) on our plans to take a scenic drive around the Sella Gruppe. We had a relaxing breakfast in the Uhrerhof’s dining room, feasting on the typical buffet of cold cuts and cheese, croissants and rolls with homemade jams, hard-boiled eggs, and canned fruits.

We decided to wait out the rain by driving down into Ortisei and doing a little shopping. We parked in a garage in the middle of town and came out in the midst of a lively street market. We made our way to the main shopping district and visited the town’s main church, the interior of which is a wonder of apricot and mint-green tones accented with gold gilt. Ortisei is famous for its woodcarving, and the town is crammed with shops selling carved items of every religious and secular theme imaginable – from crucifixes and crèches to wildlife and toys. We stopped at a nice little gift shop and bought two cow bells on leather straps. I am in the market for authentic Alpine cow bells and haven’t found the “real thing” yet, but these were far better than the tacky fakes you find in most tourist shops. It was getting on towards lunch time so we stopped at a café for pizza while we waited for the sun to come out. The clouds were definitely breaking up and we finally got our first glimpse of the snow-capped peaks of the Sella Gruppe rising dramatically in the distance.

We headed back to the parking garage but ended up waiting over twenty minutes to get out because some guy had gotten his ticket stuck in the machine at the exit gate. A man eventually showed up with some tools, looking very annoyed. He started prying open the machine and then suddenly threw his pliers on the ground and yelled “Impossible!” (you have to imagine it with the Italian accent, of course) three or four times, accompanied by violent hand gestures. He finally got the gate to go up but he was still standing there, fuming at the now-mangled machine, as we drove out.

We left Ortisei around 2 pm and set our sights on the Sella Gruppe. More and more of the mountains slowly emerged out of the clouds as we pressed onwards and upwards through lush green valleys. We had chosen a counterclockwise route to take around the mountain group, heading first over the Passo di Sella (pass #5), which afforded us spectacular vistas around every curve. DH was driving and he reported that the SLK was a little gutless but handled the curves pretty well; we certainly wouldn’t want to drive those crazy narrow roads in a larger car.

It took us an hour (with a couple of photo stops) to get from Ortisei to the top of Passo di Pordoi (pass #6) where we geared up in hiking boots and our warmest clothes and bought tickets for the cable car ride (24 Euro round-trip for 2) up to Sass Pordoi at a lofty 2,900 meters. The top was shrouded in clouds and we just hoped that we would be able to see something up there. We got some amazing views of the surrounding mountain landscape before our cable car was engulfed in a cloud as thick as pea soup. We walked out of the terminal into a lunar landscape – nothing but jagged shards of rock as far as the eye could see. The remains of a recent snow clung to the ground and a biting wind chilled us to the bone. We took lots of photos and then decided to follow the only obvious hiking trail, which took us past a small rifugio (a warming hut like the hüttes of Switzerland and Germany where you can buy light refreshments). The trail climbed slowly upwards as we traversed the side of a barren valley punctuated by dramatic dropoffs and watched a long line of hikers disappearing into the clouds on a ridge high above us. We think they must have been hiking up Piz Boè, the highest peak of the Sella Gruppe at 3,151 meters. We can only assume that they were going to spend the night up there, since they could not possibly get back down the mountain before dark. As for us, we had no such ambitions and decided to veer off the main trail to hike up to a stone cairn, from which we looked out into the dramatic abyss on either side of the Pordoi Pass. The misty, swiftly-moving clouds broke up just enough for us to catch enticing glimpses of endless mountain ridges disappearing into the distance; we could only imagine how spectacular the view would be on a clear day! After taking our fill of photos, we retraced our route and returned to the cable car terminal at 4:15, which gave us another half-hour to roam around before the second-to-last departure of the day. We found a natural arch in the rock and looked down through the hole at the crazy twists and turns of the road far below.

Thank goodness for long summer days, as once we had returned to the bottom we had plenty of daylight left to continue our circumnavigation of the Sella Gruppe. Now it was my turn to drive, down the other side of the Passo di Pordoi and onwards over the Passo di Campolongo (#7) and Passo di Gardena (#8). We were amazed by the number of ski lifts and trams that dotted the slopes above us – this area must be absolutely amazing in the winter, but I’m not sure how you would decide where to ski, as there seem to be unlimited options available. It is impossible to describe the majesty of the Dolomites, so you’ll just have to look at the pictures. The driving was very challenging – lots of first-gear hairpin turns – but thrilling. We ran into some traffic towards the end as we headed back towards Ortisei, so we didn’t get back to the hotel until 6:45 – just in time for dinner, which is served promptly at 7:00.


(The full trip report is here:
hausfrau is offline  
Feb 21st, 2011, 12:39 PM
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hausfrau, THANK YOU! This is exactly why I love Fodors...I get ideas for places I never even heard of. Ortisei looks lovely, and the scenery spectacular. I loved your pictures!! I'm off to do more research!

tcreath is offline  
Feb 21st, 2011, 03:38 PM
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Hello Tracy, Yes, Ortisei is your best bet. Her are some more pics:
bobthenavigator is offline  
Feb 21st, 2011, 04:09 PM
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I wouldn't go that far, especially since the Alta Badia is -- as far as I'm concerned! -- the most beautiful part of the Dolomiti, and the least loaded up with ugly ski towns. Many of the towns closer to the Austrian border still rely on farming and cheesemaking for a good chunk of their economies, and they have a different look from the ski towns.

My suggestion is to either head in the general direction of Bolzano, but swing west just before you get to Bressanone, heading toward Brunico, and then head into the Alta Badia. I would stay near Badia or Pederoa. From there, you can drive a route that would take you through the Selle Gruppe, back through Ortesei if you wanted and back up north to Mittenwald.

You'd have to check out the drive times and remember that mountain driving is time consuming, and the scenery is so breath-taking, you want to linger. If you can at all do it, I would suggest an overnight.

The Alta Badia area is less visited by tourists who are including the Dolomiti as part of an Italian tour -- meaning, most American tourists are coming up from the south. I've only read a handful of reports of people who have gone there -- but they all have the same reaction as I did after driving all over the Dolomiti. i found the scenery in the Alta Badia incomparably beautiful and the towns not eyesores.
zeppole is offline  
Feb 21st, 2011, 04:21 PM
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You might find this helpful for its links to accommodations. I think pja60 also posts on fodor's:
zeppole is offline  
Feb 21st, 2011, 07:59 PM
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Glad to be of help, Tracy!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the route we followed does take you through at least a portion of the Alta Badia and Val Gardena. I have not consulted a map and am only working from memory. I also take no responsibility for guessing how long this might take as a day trip from Mittenwald! If at all possible I too would recommend an overnight. The Dolomites are simply spectacular and very different from other parts of the Alps. Perhaps if you show your friends some pictures...
hausfrau is offline  

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